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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  DRAMATISTS  OF  NATURALISM                 49

tive role. The heroine (much in the way of Pinero's Second Mrs
Tanqueray) is the woman with a past; she has been the mistress
of the best friend of her husband. With its poignant contrast of
Ellen, the innocent young girl in the house, and the woman in
whom no sin is suspected, the play is theatrically excellent. Sturm-
geselle Sokrates (1903) is another venture in a new field, that of
political comedy; a company of revolutionaries of the 1848 brand
are shown up as, in the light of 1870, wildered Don Quixotes. In
Die Heimat Sudermann had rehabilitated the woman with a past;
in Stein unter Sttinen (1905) he does for an ex-convict what Victor
Hugo had done for Jean Valjean. Here again there is Sudermann's
typical contrast of girlish innocence - this time the girl is de-
formed, but longs for children - with experienced brutes. The
plays which followed hardly seem to be worth mention.

There will always be the question whether Sudermann is not
better as a novelist than as a dramatist. lolanthes Hoch^eit (1892) is
humorous but offensive to good taste. The characteristic novels
of the later Sudermann are Es war (1894), with its peculiarly vile
type of the East Prussian junker, and Das hohe Lied (1908), which,
after the preliminary chapters, returns to Berlin. Das hohe Lied has
all Sudermann's breathless rush and all his heaped sensationalism,
and its ruthless veracity is relieved by his saturnine humour. Three
spheres of Berlin life are photographed: the corrupt military cir-
cles form the background, and the life of plutocrats in the centre
weaves into that of artists and authors in the foreground, while
courtesans bind group to group. The heroine is the daughter of a
musical genius who runs away from the odour of the kitchen and
leaves behind him the score of an oratorio, 'The Song of Songs',
which symbolizes the art of the future and echoes into the deeps
of depravity in which it is carried about. In this novel woman is
again dominated, in the Nietzschean sense, by the 'blond beast'.
Lilly does not, like Magda, lead her sisters to battle, but yields
and clings, only to be broken and cast away. She is initiated into
degradation by General Baron von Mertzbach. This loathsome
aristocrat is cunningly drawn. We first see him with the girl's eyes,
when he comes like a glittering god to the musty circulating library
she dreams of love. Then, chapter by chapter, we hear of
dewlap, his rheumatism, his bow legs, his perversity, and of
the hair in his ears, which Lilly first notices at a concert where
she has dragged him to hear the Fifth Symphony. From the officers